Poverty in Chicago higher in 2022 than before War on Poverty
Nearly 60 years after the U.S. began the War on Poverty, the rate of Chicagoans living in poverty is higher than it was before the effort. National poverty rates have fluctuated between 11-15%, defying solutions and perpetuating dependence.
Since President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964, federal, state and local governments have spent nearly $12 trillion to combat poverty.
During that time, poverty rates have remained virtually unchanged. In Chicago, poverty rates are even higher compared to before the War on Poverty began.
In 1960, Chicago’s poverty rate was 12% when fewer than 110,000 Chicagoans were estimated to be living in poverty. Today, the poverty rate sits at 17.2% and more than 450,000 Chicagoans live below the poverty line.
National poverty rates have consistently hovered between 11% and 15% for decades. No meaningful progress has been made.
The War on Poverty has failed by the official poverty measure, but it has also failed by stealing human dignity. America created countless government welfare programs that make poverty more bearable but do nothing to help people escape poverty or reclaim their purpose.
Rather than helping desperate Americans down the path of dignity through work and self-sufficiency – the only way to truly eliminate poverty – government programs have instead focused on handouts. These often penalize people for trying to improve their situations.
Government programs include “welfare cliffs” that take away benefits when workers earn more. These have left people with impossible choices: struggle to provide for their family at a job or reduce work activities and receive greater benefits from the government. As a result, our approach has created a cycle of dependency that lasts for generations and is extremely difficult to break.
The Illinois Policy Institute’s Center for Poverty Solutions intends to study poverty’s stubborn hold on Chicago and the nation. The center will find ways to fix it by better understanding who is in poverty, why and what’s keeping them there.